January 2008
Never Stop Learning By Paige Worthy

As my younger sister returned to Des Moines a few weeks ago to begin her second semester of college, I got to thinking about the importance of learning. When we were children, learning was all about exploration and discovery, educating ourselves about the world around us. As we grew up, it was more about elementary skills — the three Rs, reading, writing and arithmetic. We were told those were the necessary abilities we’d go back to throughout our lives, though I’m sure many children wondered at fi rst what reading or math could possibly have to do with being a firefi ghter or a ballet dancer. Later on, we prepared ourselves for “real life” with a college education or real-life training in the well-attended school of hard knocks.

But at some point, an arbitrary line is drawn where our education is suddenly (supposedly) complete. We’re thrust into the world and expected to take what we’ve learned and apply it to the career we’ve chosen. But education shouldn’t end with a diploma or the pomp and circumstance of that cap-and-gown ceremony.

In fact, as adults, our most important life skills may be those we developed as small children, that love of exploration and the desire to discover. Our 2007 Merchandiser of the Year award winner (see page 16) told us that a constant thirst for knowledge has been a major contributing factor to her business’ success. As consumer demands in her area changed, what began as a summer vegetable stand in the 1980s quickly grew into a full-blown garden center with a dedicated staff and a full line of plants, containers and gifts.

Lessons in the Everyday

For journalists like our staff, and retailers and horticulturalists like you, success is dependent on boundless curiosity and a willingness to grow and change with the world. We can never stop learning, or our businesses will quickly become stagnant and irrelevant.

As retailers, you keep yourselves updated on the volatile housing market and national trends. You attend gift markets and garden center tours, and you listen to your customers about their likes, dislikes and goals for their gardens. To stay on top of the horticultural world, you read trade magazines, visit trade shows and experiment with plant materials to see how your customers respond to the new products.

As a publication, we report on the comings, goings, triumphs and challenges of the industry, and try to help you understand how the major news stories of the day will affect your business and bottom line. But you can be our teachers as well; if your garden center wins a community award or discovers a groundbreaking secret to selling hanging baskets, we want to hear about it. If you hold a successful event and have photos to share, I hope you’ll send them along. If you’re going to be at a trade show or other industry event, let us know, and we’ll keep an eye out for you. Just give me a quick call or drop me a note at [email protected] We can learn so much from one another if everyone is open to sharing ideas and experiences.

Oh, the Places We’ll Go!

At my high school graduation, the one gift every student was guaranteed to receive — sometimes more than once, actually — was a copy of Dr. Seuss’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go! The book’s rhyme scheme is a little obnoxious after you hit age 10, but the message behind the words is what really matters: Remain optimistic and push through the diffi cult times.

So be sure when you step / Step with care and great tact / And remember that life’s / a great balancing act.

If Seuss wrote a business book, I think he’d say that striking a balance between what we learn every day and what’s practical and viable for our businesses is the key to success. With that in mind, Lawn & Garden Retailer and our sister publication, GPN, will be recognizing forward thinkers in our industry with the fi rst-ever Sustainability Progress Awards, which will be presented at OFA’s Short Course in July. From recycling invoices to stocking perennials potted in biodegradable containers or throwing an Earth Day party for customers, every effort is laudable. But we want to celebrate the growers and retailers who are truly raising the bar for sustainable practices in our industry.

Keep an eye out for more information on this event in upcoming issues of Lawn & Garden Retailer and our e-mail newsletter, the Retail Report. If you’re not receiving it, visit www.lgrmag.com to subscribe.


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